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Select the right network to run a smart factory

Home Engineering Automation & Control Select the right network to run a smart factory

ETHERCAT is becoming the most popular machine protocol. Because unmatched performance, the highest precision, and real openness makes it different to other Ethernet industrial protocols.

EtherNet/IP is an excellent network for controller-to-controller applications with a natural integration in Company Corporative Networks. Using standard EtherNet hardware, EtherNet/IP is the perfect Factory Automation Network where the data size exchanged by the node is high.

EtherCAT exhibits outstanding performance with devices that exchange few numbers of bytes but require very deterministic and fast communication cycles. In addition, due to the ‘on the fly’ data exchange EtherCAT is hardly affected by the number of nodes, it is the perfect Machine Network.

With much of the reported paradigm of Industry 4.0 resting on self-configuration of machinery and production lines, Omron’s Evert Janse van Rensburg explained what can already be achieved to set a business on the path to an Industry 4.0 future and the promise of the Smart Factory running on EtherCAT. Omron’s Sysmac automation Platform uses EtherCAT as its primary factory network and it provides seamless machine control and factory automation.

Manufacturing is changing. Production lines need to be increasingly flexible to cope with shorter production runs, more varied products, and tight deadlines. Manufacturers are addressing these challenges with more advanced, interconnected, and intelligent systems that can be programmed to handle a variety of tasks.” One machine control over EtherCAT through one connection and one software is how we define the Sysmac automation platform”, Janse van Rensburg explains. Omron’s EtherCAT solutions include products for logic, motion, safety, robotics, vision, information, visualization, and networking and all under one software.

This has brought new challenges, such as how to program all these devices without needing to learn many different systems and programming languages. Fortunately, there are tools out there such as Omron’s Sysmac Studio that offer fully integrated development environments (IDE) for configuration, programming, monitoring, and 3D simulations. The machine controller used comes standard with built-in EtherCAT. The EtherCAT network can be accessed with one connection and is the perfect match between fast real-time machine control and data plant management.

In addition, today’s development teams are often spread around the world and increasingly solutions developed for one factory need to be duplicated at different locations, each with its own specific set of requirements, standards, and local regulations. Managing code across different teams and locations can be a sizable challenge. Therefore, these IDE systems also need to include tools to manage code versioning to allow for collaborative development and operation.

One version control system

Sysmac Studio integrates configuration, programming, simulation, and monitoring in a simple interface that allows engineers to manage vision, motion, control, safety, and robotics in one version control system within the platform’s rich interface. It allows multiple co-developers to work on the same project, with easy project comparison and efficient handling of machine versions.

Omron has chosen Git, which is the most popular open-source distributed control system, giving development teams the freedom to choose any Git-based cloud web repository. The version control system allows engineers to work on a local version of a project with full control over the project source code. Improvements and modifications made to the code on the local version can then be merged with a remote server, so other teams can access the code system.

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